Faculty Research Spotlight: Professor of Education Marge Terhaar-Yonkers

Professor of Education and Coordinator of the graduate programs in Special Education, Marge Terhaar-Yonkers has been trained in qualitative research, having earned awards for her dissertation from the Social Context Division of the American Educational Research Association, as well as the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. 

Since 2007 she has engaged in qualitative research and advocacy in two primary areas: educators with disabilities and children with disabilities and their families.  She and her research colleagues at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State will be presenting on each topic at two program chair invited sessions at the International Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Conference & Expo in San Diego this April. The sessions are Voices From the Field: Educators With Disabilities Share Insight and Exceptional Lives, Exceptional Stories.  Invited sessions are extended to academicians who are experts in a current and relevant topic. This will be her fifth and sixth invited sessions.  

Terhaar-Yonkers is extending her advocacy work with families and currently writing an e-book, The Voices of Yes I Can! Award Winners and their Families: Case Studies of Success. The purpose of these case studies is to promote models of how families and students with disabilities have successfully navigated the educational system and nurtured the individual’s abilities.  

“My passion has been using qualitative research to empower those with disabilities—children and teachers.  I’ve always been interested in giving voice and sharing the perspectives of those who are often unheard.  Our work with teachers with disabilities demonstrated that they have a unique set of gifts, such as empathy, creative problem-solving, and resiliency,” said Terhaar-Yonkers about her work. 

“For years, we made multiple attempts to convince the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education and our major professional organization, CEC, of the need to support these valuable teachers. Recently, CEC’s Board of Directors agreed that a policy for support and advocacy was long overdue. They appointed a work group to develop such a policy and I have the privilege to serve on it.  It’s been rewarding; one doesn’t always see seeds of advocacy take root on such a large scale. The adage, ‘Constant dripping hollows out a stone,’ holds true.” 

Melyssa Allen

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